Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Spinning For Reality

So it turns out my earlier speculation about the derivation of Peter Oborne's description of Blair as "someone who can define our reality by controlling our senses," was entirely correct. He was indeed basing his argumentation on the Democrat's mantra, shouted out monotonously during the election, that they are the reality based party.

In this week UK Spectator, Oborne write that Blair shares *this view of truth* with the Bushites in the White House. There he cites Ron Suskind, who pioneered this critique in the US:

The same special attitude to truth is to be found in the United States. In the summer of 2002 the New York Times writer, Ron Suskind, met a senior adviser at the Bush White House. He was surprised to find that the aide dismissed his remarks:

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community’, which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality’. I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works any more,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.


There are a couple of interesting things going on here:

The marriage between Blair and Bush over Iraq is now mirrored in the marriage between the Tory party and the American Left in the critiques of these two administrations over Iraq.

OTOH, the critique is just as infiltrated by spin as Oborne and Suskind claim the Bush/Blair supporters are. As British progressive Alan Johnson writes, you have to do the STAI test: write your critique about Iraq in such a way that it only mentions everything wrong, and never, ever the things that have gone right and the forward pull in the tide of freedom.

There are three simple steps to writing the STAI. Step 1: bracket out every single positive development in Iraq. That's right, just ignore every one. Pretend they have not happened. Close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and hum loudly. After all it's not your job to set out a real-world policy for Iraq. Step 2: play up every single error, set-back, crime, and cock-up you can find. Step 3: treat every set-back as the fault of Bush and Blair and 'the war' [admitting you are inwardly glad when an outrage occurs in Iraq because you think it is a poke in the eye for Bush is optional: only Yasmin has taken that option so far].

The STAI reduces the political complexity of Iraq to a simple story of cowboys, poodles and freedom fighters. Mood music for your real interest: the attack on Bush-Blair. [Definition of irony: columnistas who daily 'sex up' Iraq in this way complaining about spin! In truth they have been the most disciplined on-message spinners, dicing and slicing Iraq to fit their 'project'].

The right wing version of the STAI differs from the left-wing version only in the conclusion (Vote Tory!) and the literary register.


While I disagree with Johnson's analysis of the shortcomings of Neo-Cons – I think he doesn't understand them very well, they are obviously too alien [ed. heh! or too insidious! ] for him to have a handle on and he's probably never met one in real life and only read about them in the press – but the STAI descriptor is, nevertheless, spot on.

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